JERUSALEM— Israeli President Reuven Rivlin met with a delegation of executives from the Babi Yar Holocaust Memorial Center (BYHMC), a project scheduled to open in 2021 in the Ukrainian forest where 33,771 Jews were murdered on September 29 and 30, 1941.
The Babi Yar center will feature a museum with a permanent exhibit, outdoor space, educational programs, a traveling exhibit, and an archive and research center.
The project has been controversial from the start: Jewish religious authorities have objected to building the museum on the site of the massacre because Jewish law prohibits construction on top of human remains, while a group of Ukrainian historians feel it is a ‘‘mistake’’ to associate Babi Yar only with the history of the Holocaust while ignoring other victims.
Yana Barinova, Chief Operating Officer for the museum, said the project would pay tribute to all victims, and would serve as a research center for research on Holocaust-related crimes in Ukraine and Eastern Europe.
One of the main tasks before the BYHMC is to show the danger of totalitarian, extremist nationalist and racist ideologies, and especially to show how it all began. And in contrast, to celebrate cultural, ethnic, religious and social differences.
“In a world where extremism grows stronger it is our goal not only to build a Center, but to create a space that will form such a consciousness, with which it will become impossible to repeat the tragedies of World War II,” – stated Marek Siwiec, Director for International Affairs.
“I am sure that the implementation of the BYHMC project will not only change the historical consciousness of Ukraine, but, given the great interest and attention in the world to the problems of the Babi Yar, it will undoubtedly become one of the significant events in the life of the international community,” said Yana Barinova.
“Ukraine remains a blind spot on the map of the Holocaust memorials. Our goal is not about construction but it is about building trust. We intend to be a community building institution. BYHMC is about remembering the past and building the future,” emphasized the CEO of the BYHMC, Gennadii Verbylenko.
During the meeting with the BYHMC delegation, President Rivlin expressed his support for the creation of a memorial complex in honor of the Babi Yar victims and stressed the importance of preserving historical memory: “Last week I was In Thessaloniki in order to lay the cornerstone of the new Holocaust Museum, along with the Prime Minister of Greece. There are symbolic stations to all what happened to the Jewish people over the last 200 years, and especially during the Holocaust: Thessaloniki is one of them, Babi Yar is one of them, of course the Warsaw Ghetto and the concentration camps.”
He added: “I say to all heads of state I meet with, that Israel is not compensation for the Holocaust – my family came here 210 years ago – but it is important to let everyone know that the Holocaust is a milestone in our lives and in our history, and Babi Yar is something that must be remembered when we talk about all the things we have been through as a nation.”